Revealing the full potential of solar PV panels!
The potential for harnessing solar energy is HUGE! The amount of solar energy that hits the Earth in just one hour is more than our energy requirements for the whole year (Tsao et al., 2006)! Sure, we can’t expect to harness all that, but even just a small percentage would make a huge dent in our energy requirements. With regards to this energy source, it is great that we are seeing more and more solar energy collectors around the globe, but there are still some common solar myths that need busting for everyone to realise the potential.
Solar myth 1. Solar panels and pumps are expensive.
Incorrect: Solar panels are more affordable than they have ever been. The cost per watt installed is at an all-time low and panel price is predicted to drop by a further 10% per year (The Guardian, 2016)!
Solar myth 2. Solar PV panels do not work in cold or cloudy locations.
Incorrect: solar PV panels produce electrical energy from UV light, so anywhere it is daylight, the panel will produce electricity. Temperature is not related to UV rays and therefore does not affect the panels ability to produce electricity, in fact, it has been found that panels in cooler climates are slightly more efficient (Science Line, 2015). Cloud can have an effect by blocking a percentage of the direct UV rays but this does not stop the panel from producing electricity, it may just produce a bit less!
Solar myth 3. Solar panels are large and ugly.
Well, I guess it depends on your opinion! But we think this is incorrect. Solar panels have become much less bulky and more efficient over the years. When farmers replace a petrol pump or diesel pump with the SF1 solar pump they are certainly making an aesthetically pleasing choice!
Solar myth 4. Solar panels require constant maintenance.
Incorrect: Solar panels rarely require maintenance or cleaning. We sometimes find panels get dusty out in the field in dry conditions but this is quick and easy to rectify with a damp cloth. PV panels tend to have long warranties periods due to their robustness!
Solar myth 5. Solar panels cannot withstand harsh climates (heat, dust etc.).
Incorrect: Solar systems and panels used with Futurepump solar pumps have proven to be virtually maintenance free (as above). The panel being made of a dark material optimises the absorption of light and also means the panels can get very hot in full sunshine; this does not reduce their lifetime. It does mean that care should be taken when moving the pump to avoid the risk of burns (health and safety!).
Solar myth 6. Solar is unreliable and inconsistent.
Incorrect: For many off-grid or rural communities, solar power is much more reliable than a utility company. The panels have no moving parts and are not subject to power outages. Using solar power for irrigation is a no-brainer, plants need water when there is plenty of sun…it makes sense to use the sun to provide the energy to pump the water. The price also remains constant (free energy!) whereas fossil fuel prices fluctuate and are on the increase.
Solar myth 7. Solar energy is inefficient.
Incorrect: Data from SpheralSolar (2014) shows that the efficiency of solar panels is 5 times greater today than it was in 1953 with lab tested solar panels converting up to 23.5% of energy. To put that in context, modern petrol cars have an efficiency of about 25-30%. The SF1 solar pump has a much greater efficiency than fossil fuel pumps, pumping greater volumes of water per kWh, and all with clean energy.
Solar myth 8. The payback time is too long; I won’t make my money back.
Incorrect: Early feedback from our customers is that they are saving $11 a week from not having fuel costs. Over a couple of seasons this could be up to $400 a year. This means the price of the whole solar pump unit can be made back in a couple of years (and the solar panel is only a part of this!). Irrigation also allows the growth of more profitable crops (something we hope to explore in later blogs) and therefore brings in even more income to those who currently lack access to irrigation.
Futurepump solar water pumps use a solar panel to power a simple and robust positive displacement pump. This pump can lift up to 3,600 L of water per hour on a sunny day and thus saves hundreds of litres of fossil fuel per year. Irrigating using the power of the sun is encouraging cleaner and more sustainable agriculture across the world. Find a distributor near you!
Speralsolar, 2014. Infographic available at: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/06/technological-advancements-drove-solar-panel-prices/ (last accessed: 23/03/2016)
The Guardian, 2016. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/26/solar-panel-costs-predicted-to-fall-10-a-year (last accessed: 08/03/2016)
Tsao, J., Lewis, N., Crabtree, G., 2006. Solar FAQs. Available at: http://www.sandia.gov/~jytsao/Solar%20FAQs.pdf (last accessed: 08/03/2016)
Various authors at Science line, 2015. Available at http://scienceline.ucsb.edu/getkey.php?key=2668 (last accessed: 08/03/2016)
Author: Helen Davies